I brought One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez. It’s been my favorite book ever since I first read it. The first time I read it, it just had such an impact on me and I was like, ‘This is it, this is the one book that explains everything.’ And I’ve read it about a billion times since then and I feel like every time I read it I find something new.
I recently got my first tattoo based on One Hundred Years of Solitude. It’s the book's Dewey Decimal Number surrounded by a small circle, fish, and wreath of flowers, which are the symbols from the book that stuck with me the most. García Márquez was very concerned with permanence and the passing of time, so getting a reminder of One Hundred Years permanently on my body felt fitting.
It kind of introduced me to the genre of magical realism, which I’m really interested in and want to continue studying. It did have a large influence during my senior year, and now in class I’ll be like, ‘Oh, this is like this thing from my favorite book.’
The last line always gets me, a lot. I mean… I’m somebody who definitely cries from books. And the last line just hits me pretty hard every time (SPOILER):
Books (and Bookstores):
One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez
The Strand in New York, NY
I brought a lot of books that I haven't read. But the books that I have read are The Hours by Michael Cunningham and Angels in America by Tony Kushner. The Hours is my all time favorite book, and Angels in America is my all time favorite play. They really changed my life. For Angels in America, I was writing a play to put on for my school, and the idea that I had had been brewing for a while. Then I found out about Angels in America, learned about it and realized it was very similar to the idea I had. Then it just became like my Bible.
The Hours was for class, but now the author, Michael Cunningham, is one of my favorite authors. I have Ways of Seeing by John Berger, which is more academic; it’s art theory. I read half of it in high school. It’s all about how our past experience affects how we see things, and how we see art. Every line he writes is kind of mind blowing. I brought it because I want to keep reading it, since I only got half way through it in high school. Most of the books I brought are non-fiction, and I’m more of a fiction fan. So I don’t know why that happened but I think I thought because they’re non-fiction, I felt like I could be less invested in them.
It’s definitely security. I like just being near them. And I think that’s the thing about books: just physically being near books that you love is a very centering thing. The other week I was kind of stressed and confused, so I picked up Angels in America and read my favorite scenes from it. It made me instantly feel better, and I think that’s what books do.
Books (and Bookstores):
The Hours by Michael Cunningham
Angels in America by Tony Kushner
Ways of Seeing by John Berger
Howl and Other Poems by Allen Ginsberg
Night of the Iguana by Tennessee Williams
No Exit by Sartre
And the Band Played On by Randy Shilts
Booksmith Bookstore in Brookline, MA
The relationships that I have to the books are special because of the people who gave them to me, or how I associate them with people. I definitely brought them with the concept of letting people read them as well. I just got these two back from people because my friends were reading both — The Rap Attack and Ecotopia. [The Rap Attack] is about origins of rap in Harlem, and I mostly like it because my grandma gave it to me. She’s an 88-year-old Jewish woman, so it’s kind of funny in that way. But it’s kind of from an outside perspective, so it’s not actually like, a credible book, in that it’s more analytical about what happened.
[Ecotopia] is revered in sustainable agriculture, and alternative lifestyle type stuff. The concept is that the West Coast split away from the continental U.S., in theory, and developed their own society. And it works better.
This is M.C. Escher, because I like a lot of art. This is funny and you have to keep this quiet, but I keep my bud in this — my friend, who’s an artist, gave it to me [opens book to secret compartment within the pages]. I know, this is kind of cliche. But, yeah, now my secret is out.
The Circle of Fate is a handmade book. The concept is to let things go as they will, because somebody tries to intervene with fate, and it ends up working against their concept. I bought it when I was about 9.
And then, I just brought this: a little Declaration of Independence that someone gave to me - so that I know my rights.
I think they definitely show passions of mine, and the intention is that when someone walks into my room they can grab a book, and look through it. It is certainly how you want to be viewed, superficially. But I also read all of these and like them. I have other books that I have for class, but that’s not the same. Ecotopia [is most integral to my identity], because my mom gave it to me. Because I grew up in a kind of interesting, pretty alternative, different lifestyle. I lived in a cabin for the first few years of my life with my parents, and we lived off the grid. I live on a farm now… so, they didn’t follow the ideologies of Ecotopia, but it explains some things and ways of being from a perspective that wasn’t my parents’. I was able to view it as something that other people religiously followed, and could compare it to a way that I lived.
Books (and Bookstores):
The Rap Attack by David Toop
Ecotopia by Ernest Callenbach
Book of Art by M.C. Escher
The Circle of Fate by Raja Mohanty and Sirish Rao
Banksy art book
The Raven Bookstore in Greenfield, MA and Northampton, MA
The Bookmill Bookstore in Montague, MA
So I have this really weird rule. I don’t go to New York City a lot - I’m from Miami. But when I came to Wesleyan, all of a sudden, I had friends in New York. I would go for the weekend and I became obsessed with the Strand bookstore. So now, I have this weird ritual where every time I go to the Strand, I buy a book. I’ve bought the poems of John Keats, who is my favorite poet, and I bought Look Homeward, Angel by Thomas Wolfe.
But the books I brought from home are probably the most special to me. You see all these books with these little envelope bookmarks in them? That’s because my grandfather, who was a high school English teacher, has this remarkable library and collection of books in his house. And for my entire life, I’ve known I’ve wanted to be an English major because one of the first ways that I, in my life, was able to connect with him was through a shared love of reading. So we’ve spent all of my time here sending books to each other. In fact, my favorite book that I own, the Great Expectations copy, he sent to me for Christmas when I was in sixth grade. Not that copy, but he sent me Great Expectations. It has become my favorite book and that was my big Christmas gift, and it was the best one ever.
[My grandfather] puts these little envelopes in there, and he’s like, ‘it will occur to you why I put the envelope in this page, and you should figure that out.’ I keep them, which is really cool because they never stop being relevant.
On Finding Time
It is actually so hard because I have so much reading for school. But, one story that I can think about is that sometimes my Wesleyan courses make me want to read things. I bought Mary Beard’s SPQR because Mary Beard was someone we talked about in one of my freshman fall history courses. I bought the book, and I read it. It’s almost as though the courses I take inspire me to read certain things. But, also I would say that there are some books that just have such timeless meaning in your life that you can just pick them up whenever. For me, that probably would be the Lord of the Rings series - the Tolkien stuff. You can just pick them up and read through your favorite chapters. The pages are bent; it’s like riding an old bike. Sometimes, you can only have like five pages of leisurely reading a day. Those pages are really special.
On One in Particular
Probably my copy of Great Expectations. It’s my favorite book, and it probably always has been. But this copy was actually given to me by my girlfriend, who knows how much I love the book. So she got me this ridiculously fancy copy that I am so grateful to have.
Books (and Bookstores):
Poems of John Keats (“Ode on a Grecian Urn”)
Look Homeward, Angel by Thomas Wolfe
Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
Best Poems of the English Language by Harold Bloom
SPQR by Mary Bloom
Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
The Strand Bookstore in NY, NY
A fair amount of them are presents because I always ask for books. My family knows my taste, so they never have to ask. Anything that seems out of place is from people who didn’t know what to get me. Orson Scott Card, which I think is one of the only two sci-fi novels on the shelf, is from someone who just really loves sci-fi. It was great though - a really good recommendation. I grew up in a super rural place, a very working class place. I never really had someone [to suggest books], so I just kind of scoured the internet for books. It has been a solo act so far. I have a varying collection of stuff, but American or Russian literature is usually what I read. Cormac McCarthy is one of my favorites.
During the first semester last year, they were mainly for security, because I knew I wouldn’t read all of them. But I was really unhappy with it, so second semester I forewent my work in place of reading when I wanted to read. And it ended up fine! I was still able to get my work done. So life was happy, life was good.
On ‘One’ in Particular
Can I say two? First, the poems of Yeats. But Yeats has the best command of sound of any writer in the English language, bar none. So he just made me want to write, and read, and do everything. I’ve had that book for like, ten years. And it’s my favorite thing in the world. I’m not sure where it is right now. The other one is Anna Karenina because I think it’s the best novel ever written.
Poems of Yeats, specifically “A Drinking Song”
Blood Meridian and The Road by Cormac McCarthy
Books by Orson Scott Card
Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
Bookends is a new series for The Artifex in which students discuss their favorite books and the books they brought to school.
Phoebe Liebling can be contacted at email@example.com